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Commentary: What if school shootings aren't actually an epidemic?

columnist Rob Port

Seen through the prism of myopic and sensationalist media media coverage, not to mention the self-aggrandizing and almost ubiquitous lecturing from politicians and media pundits and celebrities, it's easy to perceive that America has an epidemic of mass shootings.

Their narrative holds that America has a violent gun culture and from that stems violence, the most acute manifestation of which is the slaughter of school kids.

It's a false narrative.

The truth is America, a place where restrictions on keeping and bearing firearms have been rolled back by our legislatures and the courts in recent decades, is a much safer place than it was a decade ago.

Violent crime is down.

Gun crime is down.

Mass shooting incidents, including school shootings, are even rarer than they were before.

These statements, backed by the most reliable data we have available, probably come as a surprise to you loyal readers. They certainly contradict most of what you're probably reading and seeing on social media, in your newspaper editorials, or on your television screens.

Unfortunately most political debates these days are driven by what people feel as opposed to what they know.

"There is not an epidemic of school shootings."

That's according to James Alan Fox, the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern University in Massachusetts. He's released data showing a sharp decline since the early 1990's in mass school shootings (4 or more killed excluding the shooter), multiple-victim school shootings (4 or more victims including at least 2 dead excluding the shooter), and fatal school shootings (at least 1 killed by firearms at a school).

"Four times the number of children were killed in schools in the early 1990s than today," Fox says in his research.

According to the Pew Research Center, which collected data from the FBI, incidents of violent crime per 100,000 residents declined more than 48 percent from 1993 to 2016.

Pew also reports that deaths from guns declined nearly 31 percent. If we remove suicides from that data, the decline is more than 51 percent.

The rate per 100,000 citizens of non-fatal violent firearm crime victims declined nearly 76 percent.

Again, these declines have taken place at a time when America has been moving away from gun control policies.

The much-ballyhooed federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004.

State legislatures have increasingly taken a more permissive view toward gun ownership.

While Congress has been largely deadlocked on the issue of guns for a generation now, the federal courts have issued landmark decisions, such as D.C. vs. Heller, which have come as victory to gun rights proponents.

The ranting celebrities and pontificating pundits want you to believe that America is less safe because Americans have easy access to guns. The truth is that even as Americans have gotten easier access to guns, our country has become safer.

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